For those of you who follow my Face Book postings, you may have seen something about my nose? I have a nose for a good story and used to have a nose for a good Shiraz but this was about my physical nose.
Let’s cut to the chase; my mother-in-law was due in Portugal this week from Brazil and is in a ‘high risk’ category for Covid 19 (She arrived safely on Wednesday thank goodness.) Common sense said it would be sensible for Celina and I to have the virus test; after all we have come from a country where the pandemic has caused widespread suffering. As we didn’t have any symptoms, to be able to access a test a doctor’s prescription was needed. We had to book and pay for individual appointments, although in the end we were seen together! I might have imagined this gave the very overweight but charming doctor the opportunity to go outside for a cigarette break. Then on Monday we went to the Convention Centre (aka Covid 19 Centre) here in Estoril.
Forming filling, passport checking, another 200 euros across the counter and we wait on social-distanced spaced-out chairs in the cavernous building.
We are called forward individually. I go to Room 4 and am directed to a chair. The swab is shoved up the left nostril of my nose ….. I am reminded of cleaning a rifle’s barrel with a ‘pull through’ ….. it feels as though the swab is going to pierce my forehead ….. instinctively I push back on the small plastic chair. I had been instructed not to close my eyes …… but as the discomfort seems to reach a climax I realise I have done exactly that! I do not apologise!
It’s over and I leave; the results were emailed to us within 24 hours and we are negative. When I read of the search for better means of testing for Covid 19, such as using saliva, to avoid the invasiveness of the swab test, I now know what they mean.
If you Google ‘nose’, apart from the obvious links to descriptions about the proboscis (Note 1) that sits between your eyes, you get ‘The Nose’, a short story by the Russian author Nikolai Gogol, ‘The Nose’, an opera by Dmitri Shostakovich and ‘The Nose’ aka El Capitan, a particular difficult climb in the Yosemite National Park in California.
‘The Nose’ is a satirical short story by Nikolai Gogol, written in 1835 during his time in St. Petersburg. It tells the story of a City official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own. The use of iconic city landmarks by way of illustration, as well as the sheer absurdity of the story, has made this an important part of St. Petersburg’s literary tradition.
Over 90 years later Dmitri Shostakovich picked up the story and scripted an opera called ‘The Nose’. I am not a Shostakovich fan but the little snippet on You Tube of the Royal Opera House performance (24 November 2016) of the ‘noses’ tap-dancing is both intriguing and delightful.
I have done some hill walking in the Brecon Beacons and in the Lake District, been targeted by swarms of the Scottish midges strolling up Ben Lomond and abseiled down cliffs, but I have never been that interested in actually climbing mountains. That said, I do have ‘Climbing Wall Centres’ on my ‘To Do’ list for a bit of fun; maybe a bit contrary huh!
The Nose, El Cap, otherwise known as El Capitan, is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith is about 3,000 feet (914 m) from base to summit along its tallest face, and is a popular objective for rock climbers. The top of El Capitan can be reached by hiking out of Yosemite Valley on the trail next to Yosemite Falls, then proceeding west. For climbers, the challenge is to climb up the sheer granite face and that has now been climbed by ‘free climbers’ ie those not using ropes or pitons etc. BASE jumping from it is currently illegal.
The nose is a particularly delicate part of my anatomy. On a positive note I use it to filter the air I breathe, to smell my surroundings and food; on a negative note it drips when I have a cold and blood flows from it when I bang it – or someone else bangs it! It’s the most prominent structure between my eyes, contains the olfactory organ and is the entrance to the respiratory tract. The air I breathe in is cleaned, moistened and warmed and the nose cleans itself of any foreign debris that I have inadvertently inhaled. Good eh!
When I was a teenager I suffered for years with poor quality sinuses. If you have never heard of the sinuses, they are a connected system of hollow cavities in the skull. The largest are behind your cheekbones, the smallest low in your forehead. They produce mucus that moisturises the inside of your nose. Sinusitis gives you the most horrendous headache, probably on a par with a migraine, although fortunately I have never suffered from one of those. There was a progression in the treatment; I had all three. First they were washed out, with a pressure pump stuck up your nose; I remember today why it was a pressure pump! That didn’t work, so I had them cauterized with a wire stuck up my nose and into the sinus cavity; then the doctor turned on the electrical current …….. I could smell my flesh burning! Yuk. That didn’t work, so I went under a general anaesthetic and had them enlarged, the drill going up my nose! It’s a useful access, the nose!
When I think of noses, some cartoon characters immediately come to mind. Pinocchio, for example, the wooden puppet of an 1883 Italian children’s novel whose nose had a tendency to elongate when he lied, which he did frequently. Or each of the Seven Dwarfs (apparently the politically correct word; not midget!) who all had big noses. I also think of the actor who played Cyrano De Bergerac, Gerald Depardieu, as he has a very large nose!
Richard 7th August 2020
PS My family name on my maternal grandfather’s side is Nation. Looking back over old photos it’s easy to see the resemblance past and present – the ‘Nation nose’ is quite prominent.
Note 1: The word Proboscis refers to a mammal’s nose, although strictly one which is long and mobile, like that of an elephant or Tapir.